Heritage Burnaby adds digitized oral histories.

by Kathy Bryce Monday, November 21, 2011 4:49 PM

Andornot has recently completed several exciting upgrades to the Heritage Burnaby website. The Archives received funding to digitize and create a web search interface to audio interviews on cassettes or reel to reel tapes from the last fifty years.  These interviews give an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Burnaby pioneers, and cover a wide range of subjects.  One of the common themes is the struggles that the Municipality and Burnaby families faced during the 1930s when the City went into receivership and unemployment was widespread.

As an interview could be more than an hour long, each was split into 5-10 minute tracks.  Behind the scenes Inmagic TextWorks databases HeritageBurnabyOralHistoryScreenshotwere established to capture information on the Master recording with metadata including the interviewee, date interviewed, interviewer and detailed biographical notes.  An image file showing either the interviewee or a relevant image such as the location or house discussed in the interview was also added.  Each track was then described individually and associated with the master record. Information includes the scope and content of each track, the date range, the subjects discussed and the historical neighbourhood. 

The new web interface allows users to search for any word or phrase across the descriptive fields, or by interviewee, subject or neighbourhood.  There is also an option to browse a listing of all the interviews.

Just adding a link for a user to click and then download an audio file was not an option.  Most users do not want to wait for a track to download, and they may not have an installed media player that supports the audio format.   Playback therefore relies on jPlayer, an open source HTML5 audio/video library which intelligently falls back to Adobe Flash when necessary to provide a consistent interface in all browsers.

“We are thrilled with the flexible and user-friendly interface that has allowed us to make these records publicly accessible for the first time.  By also adding the oral history database to the OneSearch feature on our site, researchers have the ability to find all related records, regardless of medium or format.  This will be an extremely useful tool for our users.”   [Arilea Sill, City Archivist]

Check out last week’s article in the Burnaby NewsLeader - Oral histories online provide fascinating look at Burnaby history or contact us for further information.

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